Banque du Liban & d’Outre Mer (BLOM) has become the fourth bank to obtain a licence to open a branch in the inner free zone of Damascus. General manager Samer Azhari says the permit was granted on 1 October.

The other three banks that have already received similar licences are Fransabank, Banque Europeenne pour le Moyen Orient and Societe Generale Libano Europeenne de Banques. This follows the passage of a decree in April, allowing foreign banks to set up businesses in free zones (MEED 21:7:00). BLOM says its licence enables the bank to operate more than one branch in any of the seven free zones in Syria. However, Azhari says the bank has no immediate plans to open further branches.

In accordance with the new regulations, BLOM has allocated $10 million in capital for its Syrian branch. The bank is also required to begin activities within 12 months of registration. ‘The date for the opening of our new Syrian branch is not yet determined, but will not be later than the beginning of next year, ‘ says Azhari.

Bankers have welcomed the new law as positive and say it is an important step towards the authorisation of setting up privately owned banks in the whole of Syria.